Unmasking the Maya

The Ancients: Remembering the Past
Maya civilization, and cultural ties between
ancient Mexico and the United States.

    Jade Mask  

The ancient Maya created the most advanced civilization in the New World.

  Map of Maya Region
Closeup Map of Maya Region
    Between 500 B.C. and the Spanish Conquest of 1519, powerful Maya kingdoms such as Palenque occupied present-day Chiapas, Yucatan, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.  

Palenque Palace Artist Conception


Palenque Palace today


Temple of the Inscriptions Artist's Conception


  Temple of the Inscriptions today
    The Maya forged strong political and commercial alliances with the civilizations of central Mexico. Through long-distance trade, luxury goods as well as pan-Mesoamerican beliefs eventually reached the Anasazi people of the American Southwest and Native American tribes living east of the Mississippi River.  
Dresden Codex Detail
Writers, sculptors, astronomers, and mathematicians, the Maya left behind a great body of art and hieroglyphic literature.   Yaxchilan Carving


Their books and stone inscriptions record the movements of the stars, the deeds of the gods, and the history of divine kings and queens.

Stela of Shield Jaguar and Lady Shark



    The eighth century painted murals at Bonampak depict exquisite scenes of music, dance, and theater.  
  Bonampak Mural
Bonampak Mural New Painting

Actor as Shield Jaguar

Sna Jtz’ibajom’s epic drama, JAGUAR DYNASTY, portrays the eighth century reign of Shield Jaguar
and Lady Shark, divine rulers of the kingdom of Yaxchilan,
  Actor as Lady Shark
  Actor as Jaguar-Chief
the centuries of bitter warfare that followed their reign, and the final conquest of the Maya by the Spaniards. Actor as Conquistador
    When the Spanish conquistadores arrived in Chiapas in 1528, they took the Indians’ land, forced them to adopt Christianity, and forbade the Maya to read and write.
Dresden Codex2
The friars condemned Maya hieroglyphic writing -- the most complex phonetic script in the world -- as the work of the devil.
Actors Burn Books

Hundreds of books on astronomy, religion, and philosophy were destroyed.

A long and noble history was obliterated.

  Maya Actor
Few Maya today are aware of their Precolumbian past. After 500 years of silence, Sna Jtz’ibajom is reviving the literary and cultural legacy of their ancestors, preserving the history of their “Fathers-Mothers” for future generations.
Arrow Right
Introduction The Ancients Maya Today Preserving the Culture Speaking Out
Print Site Other Resources Department of Anthropology
  Weaving Border